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You Pay For Those Drugs

A published report out Friday says the FDA's 1997 decision to allow television ads for prescription drugs has had two noteworthy side effects: Americans are taking more medicines, and they're paying more for them. A lot more, CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports.


Those TV ads promoting prescription drug remedies for everything from impotence to allergies are hard to miss. That's because they work -- the ads, that is. Americans spent $100 billion on prescription drugs last year, up 84 percent from five years ago.


And the cost went up too, by 40 percent. That, health insurers say, is too much.


"Patients are encouraged to want drugs that they may not find medically needed," says Dr. Allan Korn of Blue Cross-Blue Shield. "Unfortunately, that means that our friends and neighbors, through higher insurance premiums, are forced to pay for these."


Drug companies spent nearly a half billion dollars in just the first seven months of this year to promote the top ten medicines. These advertising costs are passed on to consumers.


"I guess I can learn just as well from my doctor, without having those increased advertising costs." says one.


"It's just more information. I'm not sure that it drives them to say I have to have that." says another.


But studies indicate one effect of the ad blitz is that people visit their doctors more often. The drug makers say the ads are educating consumers.


"More and more Americans are taking charge of their own health care," says Alan Holmer of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "And they're increasingly using medicines that are able to keep them out of the hospital, off the surgery table, on the job and in the home."


Critics say the cost of the heavily advertised prescription drugs will likely continue to increase and consumers will be forced to deal with the question of whether the benefits are really worth the price.
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